Throne Villages

During the late Ottoman rule (1517-1917), the central highlands of Palestine was divided into three main districts, Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron districts, forming the land proper of the West Bank. These three districts were the main location of the throne villages.

Historically there were 24 throne villages in the central highlands of Palestine, The best-preserved examples in the Nablus, Jerusalem and Hebron highland regions are: Sanur, Arrabeh, Kur, Beit Wazan, Burqa, Deir Istia, Jamma’in, Sebastia, Abu Ghosh, Ras Karkar, Deir Ghassaneh, Nelean, Iibwein, and Dura.

Throne villages represent a homogeneous architectural horizon, confined to the central highlands of Palestine. During the 18th and 19th century, these highlands were divided into twenty-four administrative domains (sheikdoms), ruled by sheikhs who belonged to rich or noble origins. The villages in which the sheikhs and their clans resided were called “throne villages”.

Throne villages reflect the social and political role-played by the local political leadership of sheiks at that period; these “county seats of the local leaders” were remarkable for their architectural style. It was distinctive in its scale and spatial organization. The feudal system in the central highlands was determined by a different approach adopted by the Ottoman government with the decline of its central political power and the rise of the power of city governor and local leadership. Large families, anxious to gain more power, played a crucial role in this system.

The sheikh, who enjoyed great social and political status, was basically the tax collector of his “sheikhdom” on behalf of the Ottoman government from all the villages in his territory. As a result they gained tremendous power and authority, which was reflected in their life style.